1The Colossus of Rhodes: Lost in an Earthquake
The striking bronze Colossus took over twelve years to build, and it stood facing the city of Rhodes for over fifty-six years before an earthquake hit the city, collapsing the statue into hundreds of pieces, where they have lain for centuries.
2Picasso's "The Painter": Lost in a Plane Crash
En route from JFK airport in New York City to Geneva, Switzerland, the pilots sent a distress signal and were attempting to make an emergency landing in Nova Scotia when the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all two hundred and twenty-nine souls on board. Though ninety-eight percent of the plane was recovered from the water, only about twenty centimeters of the Picasso work were located, and the jewels were nowhere to be found.
3Fourteen Paintings by Gustav Klimt: Destroyed by Nazis
Gustav Klimt was a prominent Austrian symbolist painter whose work often focused on the female form. Serena Lederer was a wealthy Viennese art patron who collected fourteen of Klimt's paintings. Lederer sent her collection to the Schloss Immendorf museum for safe keeping in 1943. Nevertheless, the collection was lost when the retreating Nazi party set Schloss Immendorf on fire in 1945.
Works ranging from 1898's "Musik II" to 1917's "Gastein," as well as the famed Vienna Ceiling Paintings, were destroyed in the fire.
4Claude Monet's "Water Lilies": Destroyed by Fire
On April 15, 1958, a fire on the second floor of MoMA destroyed an eighteen-foot-long "Water Lilies" painting, along with a smaller (but still large) version of water lilies. Apparently, the fire was started when workmen who were installing an air conditioning unit took a smoking break near paint cans, sawdust, and a canvas drop cloth, igniting the canvas. The fire spread rapidly.
One worker was killed in the fire and several firefighters suffered from smoke inhalation. Museum staff tried valiantly to save as many paintings as possible, but between the fire, the water damage, and the destruction caused by firefighters who worked to control the blaze, the large "Water Lilies" painting was a total loss. For three years, the museum tried to restore the smaller of the two paintings, but in 1961 it declared that the work was also damaged beyond repair.
5Sutherland's Portrait of Winston Churchill: Destroyed by Churchill's Wife
After the public presentation in 1954, the painting was taken to his country home at Chartwell but was never displayed. It wasn't until Lady Churchill died in 1977 that the truth was discovered; she had destroyed the painting shortly after it was delivered.
6Michelangelo's "Leda and the Swan": Simply Disappeared
7John Banvard's Mississippi River Panorama: Cut into Pieces
John Banvard was an American panorama and portrait painter. Banvard's magnum opus was a huge panorama of the Mississippi River Valley. In 1840, the artist spent months traveling up and down the river in a boat, sketching the scenery. He then transferred the sketches to an enormous canvas.
The finished work measured twelve feet high by a mile and a half long. The massive panorama was advertised as the "three-mile canvas," (a slight exaggeration), and was brought on a tour of the entire United States. Towards the end of the 19th century, the panorama was cut into several pieces for storage, and the pieces have never been recovered.
8Vincent Van Gogh's "The Painter on His Way to Work": Destroyed by Fire
This is one of Van Gogh's many self-portraits, depicting the artist laden with painting supplies on the road to Montmajour in 1888.
9Antoine Watteau's "Spring": Lost, Found, then Destroyed
Incidentally, another of Watteau's works, "La Surprise," (circa 1718) was found during an insurance evaluation in 2007. The oil painting was sold at auction on July 8, 2008 for 15 million Euros, setting a world record price for a painting by Watteau.
10Johannes Vermeer's "The Concert": Stolen by Thieves
Also among the famous paintings stolen in Boston was Rembrandt's "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee."